The Pijao of Natagaima: Post-Linguicide Indigenous Identity and Language (vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 51-80)

Cadernos de Etnolingüística
volume 6, número 1, verão/2018, pp. 51-80

The Pijao of Natagaima: Post-Linguicide Indigenous Identity and Language

Joshua James Zwisler

Linguicide is a government act that illegalizes the use of a language. In Colombia, indigenous languages were illegalized in all but the most remote regions until 1991. While all indigenous languages were seriously affected, the Pijao language disappeared completely. In the generations that followed, the Pijao suffered an immediate change to their social identity as indigenous people and their recognition as an indigenous people. This study examines the nature of indigenous identity and language loss in the Pijao community in Natagaima. This investigation, through focus groups, examined the relationship between language loss and current Pijao indigenous identity in addition to current language use and the perceived causes of the linguicide. What was discovered is that indigenous identity is dependent on being othered in relation to colonist identity and that language is the most powerful tool of this othering. In removing language as a tool of othering and fore/backgrounding, the indigenous community suffers an immediate change in its social identity and a progressive weakening in the generations that follow the linguicide. Additionally, it created the largest list to date of Pijao and provides an analysis of current Natagaima Pijao speech. Finally, it examines the Pijao linguicide and examines the conclusion that the creation of the official Pijao reserves may have influenced in the disappearance of the Pijao language.

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